According to the seventh annual Class Of report from talent cloud firm iCIMS, this year’s college graduates are entering a job market of immense opportunity, with 11.5 million U.S. job openings and more than half of employers increasing entry-level hiring compared 2021. Gen Z candidates have new—and differing—expectations for the workplace than their predecessors.
But where, how and why they work matters, as well as the mental support they get. They want virtual reality workplaces and cryptocurrency compensation options. Are their expectations too idealistic, or are companies too outdated?
The new report, based on a survey conducted by Wakefield Research, seeks to understand the career expectations and aspirations of the latest entrants to the workforce. The research includes employer and job seeker trends from the iCIMS platform as well as surveys of HR/recruiting professionals and recent college graduates coined the “Class of COVID-19.” The findings reveal misalignment between entry-level job candidates and employers and emerging trends that may shape the future of work.
“Entry-level candidates have had anything but a traditional college and job search experience,” said Laura Coccaro, chief people officer at iCIMS, in a news release. “As the workforce abruptly went virtual, so did college students—recent grads received up to half of their schooling remotely and likely had canceled or postponed internships. While organizations may not be ready to completely transform the way they work, we have a lot to learn from recent grads. Hiring teams should look for ways to modernize processes, be empathetic, and have realistic expectations if they want to successfully hire this generation of talent.”
Landing the job
- Entry-level applicants have high expectations for “securing the bag.” Recent grads expect an average salary of more than $70,000, while employers expect to pay entry-level candidates just under $53,000. When it comes to getting paid, one in five recent grads expect cryptocurrency as a compensation option.
- The gender pay gap continues to negatively influence females’ expectations. Female recent grads expect to earn $10,000 less a year than their male counterparts. For the past seven years that iCIMS has commissioned this research, females consistently expect to make less money in their first job than males.
- Cancel the cover letter. Only 3 percent of employers ranked cover letters among the top three elements critical to landing a job. Soft skills, hard skills and previous work or internship experience were among the top attributes to capturing an employer’s eye for a job.
- An unprofessional interview appearance could cost candidates the job. Recent grads say dress codes are out, as more than one-third (37 percent) believe what they wear to work shouldn’t matter. However, hiring pros say that appearing unprofessional is the top reason that entry-level candidates are not hired. Whether taking a virtual interview in a bedroom or an in-person interview in a boardroom, a professional appearance is required to ace an interview and land the job.
- Online “stalking” isn’t just for dating. The majority (70 percent) of recent grads look at employers’ sites when prepping for interviews and more than half (54 percent) admit to researching managers on social media, including their personal Instagram and Facebook. A more effective way of giving candidates a peek at their future colleagues or managers is to include video testimonials of real employees on the career site, job descriptions, social media and email and text campaigns with candidates.
New ideals for the workplace
- Recent grads pass the loyalty test. While entry-level workers have developed a reputation for job hopping, the overwhelming majority (91 percent) say they care how long they stay with an employer and nearly 70 percent see themselves staying with an employer long-term.
- They work to live instead of living to work. Gen Zers are loyal, but their well-being wins. Nearly half (49 percent) say a full-time job is “just a job” and they prioritize their personal passions. Many Gen Zers (48 percent) say they don’t need to work nine to five to be successful in their career.
- Gen Z is flexing for flexibility. Nearly 70 percent of recent grads would like their job to accommodate remote work, although 90 percent would go into the office. They may be disappointed with reality, as NACE reported that only 42 percent of their entry-level positions will be fully in person.
- Mental health matters. Two in three recent grads expect their employer to support their mental health and participate in open conversations about it. They also must personally align with a company’s mission and core values when applying for a job.
- Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers. Approximately a third of recent grads would be comfortable working in a virtual reality (VR) environment, such as the metaverse. But, other generations of workers aren’t ready for that, as only 13 percent of older generations report they’d like to spend their days in a VR workplace.
The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 500 U.S. human resource/recruiting professionals and 1,000 U.S. adults who graduated from a bachelor’s program in 2020, 2021 or who will graduate in 2022 between March 31 – April 11, 2022, using an email invitation and an online survey. The data/surveys have been weighted to facilitate the tracking analysis.